Blood and Thunder
Imperial Mage Hunter
Magic. Dangerous, unpredictable, but most of all, powerful. Reasonable people fear it. Madmen pursue it. Once in a while, some unfortunate soul gets caught in the middle. Such is the case of Draelius Falx.
Free-born in Faberterra, the son of an up and coming politician, Draelius should have led a charmed life full of comfort and privilege. Unfortunately, his father was a great deal more ordinary than his position merited. More than a few friends, family, and colleagues of Arius Falx wondered at the secret of his meteoric rise to power and prestige. Draelius, Arius’ only son and would-be heir, was not among them. The horrible truth revealed itself even before he ever thought to seek it. From his earliest memory, Draelius suffered horrific nightmares. His night terrors as a toddler drove many a housemaid to desperation, and though he eventually stopped screaming, it wasn’t because the dreams were gone. He’d simply become accustomed to the horror. As he grew, the dreams crept into his waking hours in the form of hallucinations. Things lurked, always just on the edge of his vision. Voices whispered, always just too softly to understand. Something played at the edge of his consciousness, threatening to pull him over the brink into madness. As a result, young Draelius was timid, withdrawn, unable to make and keep friends for any real length of time. Arius catered to his son’s oddities with a zeal that seemed natural for a man with such a seemingly precarious grip on his power, hiring private tutors, counselors, and servants by the score for his child. It seemed to most that the poor, strange, broken boy had been lucky in his birth – a less wealthy family would have abandoned him to his illness within the first years of his life. The truth couldn’t have been more contrary.
In truth, the power and prestige that allowed Arius to care so well for his son’s illness wasn’t coincidental…it was the sole and ultimate cause for Draelius’ state. Before his son’s birth, Arius struck a deal with dark, long forgotten powers that resulted in the unlikely series of events that guaranteed him a life of luxury. The price? His lineage. Specifically, his child would be the last of the Falx line. Not only that, the child would be bound to the powers that intervened on Arius’ behalf. Every time a circumstance was bent in his favor, a little more of his son’s soul was traded away, in some measure commensurate with the “miracle” required for Arius to advance. By the time Arius reached a level of living he deemed comfortable, the madness in Draelius’ mind had begun to creep into reality. When the boy, now in his teens, became emotional, the world had a way of reacting. Things broke themselves when he was angry, shadows became deeper when he was sad, and in rare moments of happiness, he seemed to be illuminated by the sun itself, regardless of the hour. In spite of Arius’ best efforts, people began to suspect there was more wrong with Draelius than his mental state. When whispers of magic began to spread, he found himself forced to extreme measures.
At the age of seventeen, Draelius was turned over to the Iron Empire by his own father. Magic of all kinds was frowned upon, but sorcery – in which Draelius stood accused of meddling, was especially hated. The boy desperately pled his innocence before the magistrate, and it was the sincerity of his cries that saved his life. Believing that Draelius was not responsible for his situation, but with clear evidence that the man was deeply connected to dark powers, the magistrate took Draelius to the Governor, who in turn offered Draelius a deal: if he would swear his allegiance to the Empire, he would be free, so long as he used his power to find and destroy those like him who would not do the same. Draelius eagerly agreed, and was immediately taken out of Faberterra and into the wilderness. The promise of freedom, it seemed, was not to be immediately fulfilled. Ten years he spent, hidden in the wild under the tutelage of others who had taken the oath long before him. He learned to master his power, to stifle the voices and ignore the shadows, and to wrestle the darkness within him into occasionally serving his ends. While the experience salvaged what remained of his sanity, it did very little for his personality.
Eventually he was freed, in a manner of speaking, assigned an experienced partner, and put to his task of finding and killing magic users not in service to the Iron Empire. Five years passed while he learned his craft, and he began to find some fulfillment, if not enjoyment, in it. Just as he was beginning to think he could learn to like this way of life in spite of its grisly purpose, his partner was killed by a rogue mage, skinned and torn limb from limb before his eyes, alive and screaming all the while. Though he escaped, the experience changed Draelius more deeply than anything before it. His purpose, theretofore forced on him by his father, the Governor, his tutors and his partner, was internalized, galvanized by his hatred of the mage who showed such cruelty into a fundamental part of his being. He struck out alone, still hunting magic users, but no longer driven by any oath. He understood now, firsthand, why men like him needed to be driven to extinction. When the time came, he would even take his own life – but only after he had seen the end of the plague called “magic” with his own eyes.